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Africa Writes 2014, an annual festival of literature that is considered as ‘UK’s biggest celebration of contemporary African writing’, had a special focus on Ama Ata Aidoo, a playwright, poet, novelist and academic from Ghana. Aidoo’s address—conducted in the form of a moderated interview or conversation with translator and critic Wangui wa Goro—was preceded by a short film on her life and literary achievements. Dr. wa Goro had in her introduction said that the aim of the conversation, that she hoped would be ‘our fireside conversation’, was to reflect on Aidoo’s expansive literary career and the main themes that have emerged from her work. 

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Aidoo is a member of the Advisory Board of the Accra (Ghana)-based Golden Baobab Prize for African Literature. Also attending the annual festival that features book launches, readings, author appearances, panel discussions and workshops for children and youth was Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed, a member of the 2014 Golden Baobab Prize for African Literature evaluations team. In describing the event, Zahrah said, “I was fortunate enough to attend Africa Writes with Ama Ata Aidoo - it was one of those situations where you cannot believe you are in the same room and listening to her speak. She is so funny and at the same time seemed like a strong woman who speaks her mind - it was one of those things that I will always remember.” Davida Wulff-Vanderpuije, who provides Public Relations support for Golden Baobab was also present and speaks about the 2014 Africa Writes Festival.

Africa Writes is an annual event; do you attend often?

This year was my second time at Africa Writes festival. I first participated in it in 2013.

What was your impression of Ama Ata Aidoo's interview with wa Goro?     

This segment was the highlight for me. I was in enthrall of Ama Ata Aidoo’s verve and engaging personality. She spoke with feeling about each of her works, including an anecdote on how people still haven’t forgiven her for the death of Anowa. As an interviewer, my personal opinion is that wa Goro did not make the most of the broad scope of questions she could have asked AAA. The segment was interspersed with a docu-film on AAA (shot by YabaBlay), and it seemed to me some of her questions had already been addressed by AAA in the film, thus we could have benefitted from other perspectives not covered by the film. In fact, to some of her questions, the witty AAA told her people could easily Google that, confirming to a certain extent, the feeling that parts of the conversation were ‘wasted’ on questions we already knew answers to. However, AAA more than made up for it. She was introduced as a ‘living literary legend’ by wa Goro, and appreciative laughter and applause from the audience say we all agreed. From the moment AAA started to speak, it was obvious we were in the hands of a master storyteller, taking us on the journey of her early life and school days in Wesley Girls High School, to the body of works and teachers who fuelled her passion for writing. Naturally, the WGHS old girls in the audience hooted delightfully with a most unladylike sound at the mention of our great school (or maybe that was just me..:-) In all, it was a great conversation, leaving us feeling like time flew by too quickly and it was over before we knew it.

What were the effects of seeing Ama Ata Aidoo, a Ghanaian, on that platform being interviewed by wa Goro?

I had a very proud moment, because this was the main event of the entire festival. For me, it was the double draw of having not only a Ghanaian, but a leading author whose protagonists have often been women who make radical choices and defy traditional gender roles at that. As she reflected on the main themes of her works of fiction, I got a real sense of her heart and work for the empowerment of women, and it was inspiring too.

What are some of the impacts you think such events will make on the literary scene in Africa?

Africa Writes is fertile ground for showcasing established and emerging talent from Africa and the diaspora, so it brings the knowledge of these writers to a wider audience. The festival has become a big celebration of contemporary African writing that is expanding and pushing new boundaries. This bodes well for the literature scene in Africa. African writers are diverse in their approach to telling their stories, and challenging the very notion of ‘African literature’. This is exciting for the continent and its diaspora because we get the benefit of the rise in genre fiction and the development of different narratives. Crucially, it challenges us to be the authors of our own stories.

It was a real delight when Davida came into contact with the 2013 winner of the Early Chapter Book Prize, Ivor Hartman. Answering the question on how the two of them connected at such a big event, Davida responded:

He was a panelist on a segment titled 'Imagining Future Africa' which discussed the impact of innovation and technology on African sci-fi, speculative and fantasy writing. This was a bold discussion on a genre that writers on the continent are engaging with as they imagine their own futures. After the talk, I approached Ivor and introduced myself in connection with Golden Baobab.

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Any concluding remarks?

I'm looking forward to the time when Golden Baobab pitches camp at Africa Writes.

 

 

 

 

 

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Executive Director, Miss Deborah Ahenkorah, inspired participants of this year's Ashesi Innovations Experience (AIX) with her story on how she started Golden Baobab during her second year at the University. She described the numerous challenges she faced while setting up an organization at that stage of her life. She went further to advise, "You are likely to fail after your first try but try again."

About Ashesi Innovations Experience (AIX)

The Ashesi Innovation Experience (AIX) is a two (2) week-long programme targeting Senior High School students in Ghana. It aims at giving participants the tools and skills necessary for success in the 21st Century. This year, the program brought together 90 High School students who explored various opportunities in Entrepreneurship, Robotics and Design while being groomed to be ethical leaders in their societies.

The programme comprised of peer evaluations, coaching sessions and motivational talks. Miss Ahenkorah together with Golda Addo and Solomon Martey shared their experiences on social entrepreneurship to motivate the students gathered. Participants had firsthand knowledge on how to start and sustain businesses as well as how to tackle various challenges in one's community.

In sharing her thoughts, Miss Ahenkorah said, “It was an honour to be part of AIX2014.  I could see eagerness on the faces of the participants and I hope they go to inspire their generation with the knowledge and skills they have acquired. I want to congratulate Ashesi University for organizing this programme.” 

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Golden Baobab has begun evaluating stories for the 2014 Literature Prizes. This year, the Prizes received a total of 210 stories from 12 different countries across the continent. The reading season of the evaluation process is in its third week.

The Evaluation Process

The evaluation process is made up of two sessions: the reading season, which spans from July to August and the judging season in October. Before the reading season, stories that were received for Literature Prizes are put into packs: four stories per pack for the Early Chapter Book and eight stories per pack for the Picture Book. Each week, a reader receives a pack of stories and a score sheet to record evaluations. At the end of the week, stories are returned and readers receive new packs of stories. Evaluation of the stories is guided by The Golden Baobab Evaluation Handbook Book, a 22-page document which spells out responsibilities of the readers and the criteria for grading stories.  For diverse perspectives, a story is read at least twice by different readers. Stories that get the lowest scores during the reading season are dropped and the highest scoring stories make the longlist. The judging season begins after the longlist is selected. During the judging season, the longlisted stories are evaluated by six judges to select a shortlist and winners of the Golden Baobab Prizes for African Literature.

Meet the 2014 Reading Team

Members of the reading team are volunteers dedicating two months of their year to sift through stories that were received during the Call for Submissions to select a longlist.  This year, 22 readers from Kenya, Singapore, India, Canada, Germany, South Africa, USA and Ghana form the panel. They consist a physician, a primary school librarian, a publisher, an English Teacher, a drilling fluid engineer, students and graduates. The diversity of readers is to enable Golden Baobab select stories which will be lauded and appreciated by a wide variety of readers all over the world.

Our reading panel had a little chit chat to know each other better. Below are snippets of the conversation and some of the responses will definitely make you smile:

If you were God for a day, what is the first thing you would do?

  • Press the earth's reset button.
  • Create harmony and love
  • Make everyone honest.
  • Give me more hours in the day please!
  • I'd instill some intrinsic motivation in all my jaded students. 
  • I would probably take away the concept of violence from human minds.
  • Rainbow colored beaches. And then I would take us all back to the Garden of Eden and save a ton of complications.
  • I’ll give the title back to God. I think He’s doing a great job.
  • Wow, I don't think I have the strength, patience or wisdom to be God, but I think I would pause the world and sprinkle love dust on everyone (yes, I said love dust), I think if we all remember to love others above ourselves most of the problems we are facing will seize to exist.

Interesting things about you that you dislike?

  • I say a lot of things I don't mean. I seriously need a filter. 
  • I am a perfectionist. Really drives me mad when I have an important assignment to undertake.
  • My ability to touch my nose with my tongue. That must mean my tongue is way too long, right?!
  • None or very few of the things I pursue in life seem to have any correlation with being a real-life adult making real-life money... is quite worrying at this point. 
  • I am a worrier by nature - and I have extremely "thin skin" and tend to take everything too personal. I have tried to "toughen up", but it hasn't worked so far and since I am heading towards the 50s, I have kind of given up on it ;)
  • I have an unexplainable dislike for peas. I don't know why, but I see peas and I just can't eat them.
  • I am a huge over thinker. I like to ponder and nit-pick at every angle which can quickly get exhausting.
  • I don't often think ahead, and recently that's come to bite me in the backside.
  • Boring habits of mine that can be annoying to others is my tendency to be nitpicky.

 

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Great news for illustrators, artists and designers in Africa!! Golden Baobab has extended the deadline for submissions to the 2014 Golden Baobab Prize for Illustrators. The new submission deadline is Midnight GMT, Friday, August 22, 2014. 

The goal of the Golden Baobab Prizes is to discover, nurture and celebrate talented African writers and illustrators of children's stories. There is a $7500 cash prize at stake as well as the opportunity to be celebrated as Africa's leading children's illustrator.

If you are an African illustrator/artist, get excited and ready to submit! Do share this news with any illustrators/artists you know. 

Find our rules and regulations in English, Francais, Português and العربية. For submission details, visit  submit your illustrations.

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Golden Baobab has extended the deadline for submissions of its Literature Prizes to midnight GMT on Monday, July 21, 2014.  This decision came about when several writers faced difficulties during the submission process.

Prize Coordinator, Delali Kumapley says, “This is a mop-up exercise; we realized a lot of people made unsuccessful attempts to submit to the Prizes so we decided to give writers two more weeks to make their entry submissions. Those who submitted to the Prizes and did not receive acknowledgment and those who intended to enter the competition should take advantage of this opportunity. Again, we wish to apologize for any inconvenience that was caused during the submission process.”

The extension will not affect the evaluation process; everything will go on as scheduled and the winners of the various prizes will be announced in November this year.

To submit stories to the Prizes, visit: http://www.goldenbaobab.org/prizes/submissions/submit-your-story

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